What you need to know:
- While it is every student’s dream to study, graduate and get a job in their area of specialisation, it is never a given.
- Sometimes fate lies elsewhere. Indeed, sometimes, destiny lies in the networks and connections created during the years of study.
- High unemployment numbers are forcing graduates to embrace unconventional careers. Such careers include sport, art and dance.
While it is every student’s dream to study, graduate and get a job in their area of specialisation, it is never a given. Sometimes fate lies elsewhere. Sometimes, destiny lies in the networks and connections created during the years of study.
This week, MyNetwork spoke with individuals who graduated but failed to get employment in their areas of specialisation, but thanks to the clubs and societies they were part of in university, they got good jobs.
They share the importance and relevance of these groups to job seeking graduates.
James Kimani, 30
I work in a five-star hotel in Doha, Qatar as a security guard. My job is to protect people and property. Unlike most of my colleagues who have studied for the job, I got this opportunity thanks to the karate skills I acquired back in university.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from Karatina University in 2016, and I felt ready for the professional world.
Unfortunately, I found the job market saturated, with hardly any vacancies in my field. This forced me to adopt an open mindset and be receptive to opportunities outside the realm of human resources.
Even so, I struggled to secure long-term employment in Kenya, and this prompted me to explore opportunities in other countries. After two years of joblessness, I secured this job. Since I left school, I have practiced in HR only once – as an intern at the Higher Education Loans Board.
Luckily, throughout my four years in college, I belonged to the Shokotan Karate Club where we were taught self-defense skills. I never knew that I would use those skills to earn a living.
I joined the club in 2012 in my first year of studies. My main goal then was to become physically fit and learn basic skills. Being a freshman, the daily training sessions also proved to be a good platform for me to meet people and widen my circle of friends.
The club was always credited for contributing to the institution’s discipline. A key skill we learnt was how to control one’s emotions even in difficult situations.
I participated in many inter-university competitions, but the biggest benefit I gleaned was that through karate I developed leadership and teamwork skills.
I learnt to be independent, responsible, and courageous enough to face life’s challenges both within and outside of university. These skills helped me find a well-paying job.
I have learnt to always be calm no matter how uncertain a situation is.
Working in a field that is completely different from what I studied in school is a challenge but I have come to embrace it.
I highly advocate for students to join at least one club in college. Through these clubs you can get valuable exposure and build long-term friendships.
Elvis Mboya, 27
Latin Dance Trainer
An evening stroll around Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in 2015 changed the course of my life. I was a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. Before then, I was just a philomath who did not have any social life beyond lecture rooms.
That evening I stumbled upon a group of students dancing Salsa. I was intrigued. I found out that they were part of a club called La Casa Salsa, which I promptly joined and remained a member throughout campus. I always looked forward to training sessions every evening. To access these sessions, I was required to pay a membership fee of Sh500 and an annual renewal of Sh200.
Besides the dance lessons, the club nurtured talents in music, drama and poetry. Members were given a platform to showcase their abilities, and we organised several charity events for students to interact. Dancing and participating in the club’s activities was also my way of unwinding.
I remember, there were instances when the club would get contracted by hotels and event organisers to perform at their functions. The stipend I got from such performances came in handy. But that was a season of my life. Another life awaited me after graduation in 2018. I thought I would quickly get a job in the science world, but that is yet to happen.
After years of joblessness, I opted to rely on the skills I had learnt from Salsa club to eke out a living. Now, I do dancing on fulltime basis. I work as an Afro-Latin dance trainer. When I started, I would visit people in their homes and train them. I used the proceeds to start a dance club in Kakamega which has since been registered as part of the Afro-Latin Dance Association of Kenya. I feel proud to be a renowned Latin dance instructor.
I teach Salsa, Kizomba and Bachata among other Afro-Latin dances thanks to the skills I learnt in university. I ensure that new dancers get the right training as Latin dances are universal. I also help dancers know their best music category based on their abilities.
My job also entails organising meetups for Latin dancers around the country to meet and dance. To complement my income, I do online writing, compose poetry and write short stories.
At La Casa Salsa club, I learned vital social skills that have helped me to interact better with others. Getting a learner to understand a dance moves usually involves physical interaction, which is where social skills come in handy. Learners of dance have to be comfortable to be able to express themselves and learn.
The greatest challenge that I face is advertising my work. There are a lot of people out there who want to learn Latin dances but don’t know where to get a trainer or the classes to join. I advise anyone in campus to find a club that they feel comfortable in, to help them freely unleash their inner potential.
Mercy Kihumba, 24
My job involves visiting the conflict-afflicted areas and interacting with communities in a bid to understand the root causes of the clashes, and come up with the best possible ways of resolving their disputes.
I work with Peace League Africa, a non-governmental organisation that aims to bring peace to the international community as well as help people affected by conflicts economically, socially and spiritually through training and providing social amenities.
In university, I studied counselling psychology, which is worlds apart from my current job. But thanks to a society I joined while in second year at the University of Nairobi, I was seconded for my current job. I was a member of the Kenya Model of United Nations (KMUN) society, which is a student-run society that aims to achieve the United Nations sustainable development goals.
We held conferences to discuss solutions for global issues under the 17 sustainable development goals of the UN, and held debate contests between different local universities.
I joined the society mainly because I wanted to understand the role of the UN, and how to resolve conflict. Such groups were a preserve of political science, international relations, economics, peace studies, religion and history students. I was one of the few science students in the group.
Being a member of KMUN helped me secure a job and also grow my network, I often met like-minded people who challenged me to become a better person. Over time, I became more confident and articulate when addressing issues. I have also developed an interest in political science. I am currently pursuing a second degree in political science.
As a research assistant, my work involves a lot of reading but I am glad I developed love for reading while I was a member of KMUN. The challenge I faced as a fresh graduate in a field that I did not study for is that a majority of people don’t trust beginners. They view them as inexperienced amateurs and keep them from key positions instead of nurturing them.
I advise students to join clubs and be active in them. You never know, that could be your stepping stone to your first job. You also get to learn a lot by interacting with other students.
Margaret Wairimu, 26
One thing that bothered me when I joined the Arts Club at Machakos University during my third year was how my talented friends lacked a platform to sell their artwork.
Most of the members lacked an avenue to market their pieces and get paid for their work as the exhibitions held at our school did not help much. It was difficult to sell art to fellow students because of the perception that art is expensive.
This was why after graduating in 2019 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, I started a business of buying and selling works of art as an intermediary. I am currently a self-employed art dealer running a business known as Infinite Artisary in Nyeri.
I buy art from different artists, although most of them are based in central region. I have gotten most of my customers through networking with former club members.
As an art dealer, my work entails educating artists about the needs of the market. I advise them on what type of art is in demand in the market.
I am not an artist but the skills and experience I have gained from working with artists for the past five years has taught me a lot about the field. I joined the art club in university. A friend had just gifted me a drawing of myself, and I wanted to know how he did it.
In the first month of learning, I tried my hand in painting but when it did not work out, I opted to remain a member and learn the basics of art. I would only attend lessons whenever there were group activities that required us to share our skills and come up with creative artwork. The knowledge and skills that I got from such classes are what I use to sustain my business.
The club kept me busy during the weekends. I also got valuable exposure. Most importantly, I got to appreciate culture and started viewing things from a different perspective – from a creative eye.
The biggest challenge I face is, most people believe art is very expensive, which is not true. Others believe that art is only made for moneyed clients and establishments such as hotels, and that makes clients shy away from interacting with my pieces.
However, I don’t regret venturing into artwork. In fact, I advise university students to join and be active in social groups because they build and modify you for the modern society.